In the process, Ford is relaunching the Taurus name -- because when you think "Taurus," what comes to mind is probably not a high-tech, high-performance, high-art sedan. The Dearborn, Mich. automaker expects that will change when consumers get a look at the car and the ad campaign promoting it -- not in that order. Ford hopes the car will help it grab the large-car segment back from the imports and make consumers forget some less remarkable Ford large sedans that have been less than stellar "placeholders" in the segment.
The effort includes a straight-ahead ad campaign via Team Detroit intended to appeal to "substance seekers" by keeping the focus on the vehicle's quality, technical accoutrements, performance, looks, and interior styling. While the base model starts in the mid-$20,000's, the company will also introduce the Taurus SHO, a high-performance version (the SHO appellation is also resurrected from a late-1990's model) that starts in the neighborhood of $37,000.
Mike Crowley, marketing manager for Ford large cars and SUVs, said during a press conference at Ford's Dearborn design shop that the Taurus name is too well-known to drop. "There are four million Taurus owners who love the car, and Taurus has 87% brand awareness," he said. "It's very expensive to build a new brand, so our challenge [with the new version] is to make Taurus as respected as F-150 or Mustang."
Matt VanDyke, Ford's director of U.S. marketing communications, said the effort, with the theme "Engineered to ignite desire," is intended to convey the idea that the new Taurus is no appliance. He says the media plan includes Ford's highest-ever percentage of digital, experiential and lifestyle events for a product launch. "It is also a first for an auto manufacturer to use digital tags on brochures for smartphones and PDAs that bring sight, sound and motion, and we are using traditional media in new ways."
Three new TV spots that will have a heavy pro and college football broadcast rotation tout the car's blind-spot radar technology, EcoBoost engine tech and new features of the Ford and Microsoft Sync telematics feature, such as turn-by-turn directions. "It is similar to our work for Fusion and other cars, even a little with F-150; it uses computer graphics to reinforce," he says. A voiceover by actor Aaron Eckhart talks up the tech and finishes with a "We speak car, we speak innovation" credo.
"We felt we had to focus on design and technology and present it in very straightforward and substantive way," says Van Dyke. "We continued that in print" with four magazine ads. The digital side of the campaign uses an approach that is similar to the one Ford used for F-150, its full-sized pickup, employing the Web to run demonstrational videos that prove by comparison the superiority of certain features.
"Online, we have an opportunity to speak with people with long-form video content that isn't a reprise of TV commercials," he says. The videos directly compete with other cars, but not in the mass market. "We had to go outside the category to find vehicles to compare," says Van Dyke, who explained that the Web effort pits Taurus against luxury cars.
"It isn't our goal to position this as luxury product; it's not for badge seekers, but for those who want advanced technology and the best in quality and craftsmanship."
The Taurus microsite at FordVehicles.com will include five demonstrations comparing the car's features against those of Lexus LS; Infiniti M45 X, Audi, and Acura RL.
Online media will include behavioral targeting, Web-page roadblocks, and alliances with sites like ESPN.com.